Gertrude Ross, daughter of Reverend George Ross, was the young widow of Thomas Till in 1763 when she married George Read, a prominent attorney in Newcastle, Delaware, and future signer of the Declaration of the Independence. She was also a sister to George Ross, who later signed the Declaration of Independence, and a half-sister to John Ross, a successful attorney in Philadelphia.
Gertrude received a good education under the direction of her father. He "carefully cultivated" her "naturally strong" understanding "beyond the common lot of most girls of her days, even in educated families. She was described as being "beautiful" with "elegant" manners, and exemplary "piety."
Even though she was "constantly separated from her husband," "suffered considerable hardship," and often had to "fly from her home at a moment's notice" with her "infant family," she never complained. Instead, she "encouraged her husband in every possible way" by her words and her "cheerful manner" in bearing her burdens.
Gertrude lived a "troubled" life during the Revolution because the enemy prowled along the "maritime border of Delaware and kept the little Province in a continuous state of alarm by predatory incursions." The British Army sometimes occupied parts of Delaware or simply marched across it; in either case, their presence necessitated frequent moves for Gertrude and her family.
Gertrude was well-known for her love and ability to grow flowers, especially tulips, and had an "extensive garden of the old-fashioned mansion" in Newcastle. She spent most of her life in this home except when she was forced to flee to Wilmington or Philadelphia.
Gertrude and George were parents of five children, four sons and one daughter: John Read (died in infancy); George Read, Jr. (born in 1765, married his cousin Mary Thompson, and was U.S. District Attorney for Delaware for thirty years); William (born in 1767, married Ann McCall, and was Consul-General for Naples at Philadelphia for many years); John (born in 1769, married Martha Meredith, and became Judge of the Superior Court of Pennsylvania); and Mary Howell (married Matthew Pearce of Maryland).
Facts and quotes are from Wives of the Signers: The Women behind the Declaration of Independence, pp. 209-215.
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